The transport shook rather violently as it reentered normal space and she exhaled the breath she hadn't realized she was holding. She was used to being in space, space wasn't the problem, but making a jump in a small transport was quite different than doing so in a ship of respectable size. She looked around the compartment and the faces told her that at least she wasn't alone, the apprehension lay thick.
"First jump, blue?" Asked the lanky young human to her right, a small chuckle to his voice
"I'm an asari traveling on a transport from Earth, what do you think?" She snarled in response, regretting her tone almost immediately. The boy just stared at her, surprised.
"Sorry..." she sighed "just not used to making the jump in something as... unstable as this. Usually I'm on something more sturdy"
"Unstable?" he responded, banging the bulkhead with a smirk "Alliance' finest! Nothing but sweat, steel and quality. Size isn't everything." his smirk growing wider "Oh, I'm David by the way... or Dave if you like"
"Shia" she responded, meeting his handshake
"Shia? That short for something?"
"That would be telling" she responded, smiling as her mothers words echoed in her mind "You might find out one day"
They air fell silent again, both of them taking comfort in the hum of the engines and the rocking of the ship to fill the void. She pondered her situation. Graduation, one night of booze, one day of sleep and then off to the spaceport. She found it hard to believe that she had still been in High School only a week ago. Feels... longer? She thought. Eighteen really might be too young to be doing this. Her mother had suggested as much, but she was determined. And when Shia set her mind to something, her mom always supported her, even if it might scare her a bit. And then there was dad, of course. She smiled at the thought. They'd seen her off that morning, all dressed up too. Mom in her red and white ambassadors dress, and dad in her dress blues. She had been strong, determined... Or so she thought, but as soon as the doors closed and the transport took off, she felt an intense longing. She'd never been away from home for more than a few days, and always to visit someone close to her. Grandma Hannah, aunt Miri, aunt Tali. Visiting grandpa was the best though, not that she liked her more than the others, but visiting Thessia was something in itself, grandmas house in Arizona had trouble competing. The fact that she could walk around without sticking out like a blue light bulb didn't make it any less appealing. Her mind grew sad with thoughts of home and family, Mom...dad...I won't see them for almost a year unable to stop a few tears escaping her green eyes, rolling softly over the light blue skin.
David couldn't help but notice her change in mood. He thought about ignoring it, but something told him that she might actually need a little pick-me-up.
"First time away from home?" He asked softly
Shia nodded, wiping her tears. Damn it Shia! Embarrassing! she thought, a little angry with herself
"Y-Yeah. Was bound to happen sooner or later, right?" She responded, forcing a smile
David put a reassuring hand on her shoulder "Don't worry, it get's easier, give it a few days and you'll be right at home... might even be fun"
She let out a light chuckle "Thanks" she said, receiving a happy nod in return
"Wait. So, first time away from home? You were born on Earth?" Davids surprise was obvious as he spoke
"Yeah. Dad's human" Shia responded "She works for the Alliance... you know, dirtside"
"She?" David asked with a puzzled expression "Oh, right! Forgot about that" he exclaimed when he met Shias eyes. She just smirked and shook her head
"So, navy brat then?"
"Uh huh, in a way. Not like I grew up in space or anything. As I said, dad works dirtside. You know, farmhouse in upstate New York, home for dinner every night. That sort of thing" She smiled, the sadness from earlier still lingering, but less pronounced now.
"So, what about you" She asked after a moment of silence
"Spacer all the way. I was born on Arcturus, didn't even set foot on a rock til' I was 14" he said proudly "But I did spend my senior year on Earth, mom thought I should experience it for a while. She seemed to think that once I enlisted, I wouldn't get the chance again." he let out a quiet laugh
Their conversation was cut off by the captain calling out over the speakers "Ok, time to wake up back there! On final approach to Benning, ETA to Camp Euler is ten minutes. Just follow the instructions of the TO and you'll do fine; good luck" The tension in the room rose immediately, all fifty recruits seemed to be holding their breaths, their eyes moving uneasily around the compartment.
"All right, you heard the man" The TO shouted "I'm Training Officer Adams. Just follow instructions and we'll all get through this in flying colors. Once we land, line up single file outside the transport. You'll be issued your gear and given further instructions. So, just keep up and shut up"
"Guess this is it then" Shia quipped, looking up at David
"Yep" He replied confidently. Shia couldn't tell if he was faking or not "Good luck down there"
"Yeah, you too"
- - -
"Get on the ready line! Go, go, go!" Adams shouted over the roar of the shuttle engines. Dust blew around the assembled group. Shia glanced around her, careful not to turn her head. She could see similar gatherings all over the quad, each in groups of fifty. Before them stood a couple of tables, packed with black and blue packages, each with a white label attached. Something about seeing all these teenagers, all dressed in casual clothes, at least two wearing Expel 10 promo shirts, all the while standing in military formation made her feel like laughing out loud. She managed to suppress it, but just barely.
As the shuttles flew of, Adams spoke once again, softer this time but still quite stern. Shia wasn't phased by it, she'd heard the tone from her father plenty of times, not always under the best of circumstances. "Welcome to Camp Euler. For now, all you need to do is listen carefully and follow the instructions. Body piercings are prohibited, hair is to be kept in regulation style or length." He said, glancing at a girl near the middle of the line, her hair flowing almost down to her waist. "You may speak once given permission to do so by a superior officer, the first and last words out of your mouths will be sir or ma'am." He paused, briefly, letting the words sink in "Do I make myself clear!" He roared.
"Sir, yes Sir!" Came the resounding response
Adams was slightly taken aback by this, usually he would repeat the question at least once for effect, but it seemed unnecessary this time. Adams nodded approvingly.
"Step up and collect your gear and get inside the barracks, pick a bunk and get dressed. Assembly in the briefing room to be adressed by the company CO in 10. Fall out!"
- - -
Shia sat with her new company in the briefing room of the barracks. The room smelt vaguely of disinfectant. Her dad once joked that the barracks of boot camp were clean enough for a quarian to eat off the floors. Aunt Tali had disagreed of course, but it was funny never the less. She let her fingers brush over her brand new tags. She liked the uniform, it was comfortable and it felt right somehow. Still, she was never one for waring blue for obvious reasons, but at least the black detail broke it off a little bit. The mood in the room was somber, everyone was still adjusting, making sure that the haphazard job they'd done of making their hair stand up to scrutiny was sufficient, or just cursing their own names for getting themselves into this mess.
Shia jumped slightly as training officer Adams entered the room
"Ten-hut!" He shouted, and the whole room rose in unison at the command. The sync could have been better, but Adams was still impressed for a group of first day recruits, much as he had been out on the quad.
The room filled with the two other training officers assigned to the company, followed by the commanding officer. Shia couldn't see them clearly, having taken a seat on the second row at the far left. She resisted the urge to turn her head, but eventually stole a quick glance at the front. Her eyes widened, Oh... crap
"At ease" The woman said in a soft yet stern voice "I'm Captain Williams, commanding officer of Echo Company." She said, letting her eyes wander over the crowd. Shia wasn't listening, lost in her own thoughts Shit... Aunt Ashley? Really?
"We'll start with roll call, when I call out your name, you sound off" Captain Ashley Williams continued "Aaki, Sandra!" She called out, receiving an insecure yet loud "Ma'am!" from a timid girl in the front row to the right, coupled with a standing salute, her waist long hair now tied up in a regulation bun. Ashley nodded as the girl sat back down.
Ashley loved this part of the job, she'd transferred to training detail two years ago, and this was her second group of recruits, or litter, as she liked to call them. Eager young minds, ready to serve, ready to head out into the galaxy and show it what for. It took her back for sure. She continued down the list of names, making sure to etch each and every face into her mind. She was going to be rough, but she would care for each and every one of them.
Shia rubbed her hands nervously as the list of names already called grew longer and longer. What could she do? Well, nothing really. Keep up and shut up, as Adams said.
"Romanov, Alexandra I." Ashley continued
This is it, she braced herself
Ashley moved on to the next name and her mind froze for a few seconds, Shia?, stumbling on her words slightly as she called out the next name. "Sh... Shepard, Shiala J.
Pushing all of her nervousness to the back of her mind, Shia let out a confident "Ma'am!" as she stood up and snapped to attention, looking over to Ashley, the woman she'd grown up knowing, her aunt, the same woman who'd carried her on her shoulders and played with her in the snow when they all gathered for Christmas. And now, her new CO. Their eyes met, and Ashley couldn't help but let the faintest smile paint her lips as she nodded warmly to the familiar young woman with the pale blue skin and the vibrant green eyes. Shia felt immediate relief when she saw the warm expression on her aunts face. Maybe this wouldn't be a problem after all. No, of course not, aunt Ash was a professional. Dad had been out there with her shooting stuff since before she and mom met. T-This might be... might be good she thought as she returned to her seat.
Ashley continued the roll call with a slight smirk on her face. Damn it, Shepard, you could have called first, snickering ever so slightly. She finished addressing the newcomers, gathering up her papers as Adams roared "Ten-hut". The room rose in unison as the young group all snapped to attention. "You now begin your new lives as enlisted personnel in the System Alliance Navy. The next couple of months are going to be hard, do your best, never give up, and together, we'll get you there. Believe in these words, but above all, believe in yourselves." Ashley paused briefly "Sound good!?!"
"Ma'am, yes ma'am!" The group roared with renewed vigor, saluting the CO.
Ashley couldn't hide her smile as she returned the salute
"Ladies and gentlemen, Welcome to the Alliance"